No photos, no extras. Just my hot air.
This is bound to be one of those “back when I was a kid” rants, and it’s bound to offend someone. I admit, it’s a rant. And, I fully accept that to younger readers it could be construed as one of those lectures, where it seems I’m saying things were better way back when… That we were better, that you are worse. It may seem like I’m remembering through the veil of age and potentially distorted memories. I’ll give you youngins’ that point. That’s not the case. I accept that some things are better now, and that we did things that were not perfect either. The rest however is up for debate. So, if you finish this post and have some thoughts, log in and share them on the WordPress site or the Tales from the Motherland Facebook page. I’d be really interested to hear what others have to say. Surely I’ll ruffle some feathers, but it’s my dime. You can comment for free.
Today I stopped by the high school to drop something off for my son. Don’t get me started on the fact that my mother never dropped things off for me. If I forgot them, I dealt with the consequences. She was working, and busy, and tired… and she didn’t believe it was her job to bail us out of those kinds of things. That right there, is the jumping off point. This idea: that we as parents are there to help our kids out (read bail them out in many instances) is an interesting topic amongst friends and I. What is too much? What is their stuff and what is ours? What do our kids learn from being held accountable? And when is being held accountable a difficult line to navigate… as parents and as kids? Where should the line be drawn?
My kids are 22, 20 and 15 now. The two exchange students we’ve had this entire school year are 16 and 17, and definitely figure into this topic. Almost as soon as they arrived here, I added them to my list of things I need to keep track of. They are not things of course, but their things. Their homework assignments, things they forget at home, or forget to do, or things they need taken care of, appointments they need to make, stuff they want or need. It all goes on that list. The list is very long. Talking to my friends, my list is longer than some and shorter than others, but I have yet to meet a parent without a list of other people’s things they keep track of.
Anyway, I was at the high school and stopped into the bathroom near the cafeteria. As I entered I heard loud chatter and laughing, kids fooling around. I wondered what was happening, as it was so loud and not lunch time. Glancing in, it was clearly a study session- one of several happening during testing this week. They were quite boisterous (There! An old lady phrase, if I ever turned one), but there’s nothing odd about that. However, within a second of walking in and hearing the noise there was a huge crashing sound and the distinct sound of breaking glass… big glass. A cacophony of laughter, “woahs!” and other exclamations followed. I know too many kids at the school; I didn’t want to stick my head in there. I figured the laughter implied that no one was hurt, but continued on to the bathroom thinking that I should maybe call the office and suggest that an adult should be present. Instead, when I came back out and paused near the doors to see if all was ok, a teacher was pushing a large broom, cleaning up glass and mess. Again, I continued on because an adult present made it clear that I didn’t need to get involved.
However, as I walked away the image stuck in my head. What had been going on that would have gotten so out of hand that broken glass was the outcome and sweeping was necessary? And, how do things get that out of hand in a study period with a teacher present? Accidents happen of course, but the loud chatter and chaos that I heard just a beat before the very loud crash implies that there was more going on. The sound was distinctly out of control… and there is my point: Out of control, and what are the limits that have changed and allowed so much out of control?
On several occasions over the past few years my kids have reported situations at school that truly rattle me. Both of our exchange students have also noted that there is so much talking in class- while the teacher is talking or studying is going on- that they can barely focus. Little Man finds it nearly impossible to work in some of his classes, focus already a challenge for him. Cell phones are used, texting and even answering calls occasionally, and each of the kids has said that it is not uncommon for cell phones to ring, even though they ares suppose to be off during class. In a recent conversation with a few of the teachers, the ones in the conversation noted that parents have complained when they can’t reach their kids. Teachers feel stuck when it comes to cell phones, they’ve shared. They also feel less able to assert control over their classes. Gone are the days when they can easily put things in order by asking a student to repeat aloud what they just whispered to a friend, or by reading a passed note to the class. That is invasion of privacy.
When we were in school, we certainly passed notes and whispered to our friends. However, we went to enormous lengths to not get caught. We kept it very quiet. We did not actively chat with friends, and those who did were labeled trouble and asked to sit in the hall. As the chatter box I have always been, I spent a few times in the hall for getting caught whispering a quick comment to a friend. It would not have occurred to me to blatantly talk out loud. Yet, over and over I hear from kids that their classes are often loud and disruptive. What are teachers suppose to do about this when some parents complain that their kids were embarrassed or treated badly, if teachers condemn this behavior publicly- Say, to the class they are disrupting? How frustrating it must be for teachers and administrators today when so much of their ability to run the business they are in, is thwarted by kids who don’t respect the rules and parents who support their disrespect.
Ok, hold it. I am very aware that this does not represent all kids or all parents in our school or in all other schools. There are still parents who raise their kids to be respectful in class and mindful of others who need to study. There are lots of parents who do not think that a cell phone is a limitless entitlement, but a privilege that should be used when it’s needed, not when it’s wanted. Limits. There are plenty of kids and parents who still understand what that means… But there are plenty who do not.
On too many occasions I have seen parents provide false alibis for kids who are caught at parties that had alcohol (forbidden in our school district and in many others), knowing full well that their kids were in fact guilty. Regardless of whether I agree with the policy (which I am very skeptical of), the rules are the rules. My mother would have dragged me to the office before she would ever come in and lie for me. Period. Punishments were firm and harsh and there was little concern for whether I might miss a dance, an important meet or something I wanted. If you were caught, you were punished. With some parents making sure their kids aren’t punished, while others allow their kids to face the natural consequences of their actions, the balance is entirely disrupted. Kids who fess up are punished, while those who lie are not. It’s not fair to the kids who do the right thing and sit out, nor the kids who do the wrong thing and participate… or the administrators and teachers who have to wade through the crap that surrounds both sides.
I’ve heard all of the various sides, as my friends and other parents discuss the latest happening, or events. I’ve been ’round and ’round about why some kids get bailed out and other don’t and which is right. I get it: seeing a kid miss a State athletic event, or an important dance, or even graduation is a very big deal. But, shouldn’t that be weighed when kids are choosing to do things that they know are wrong? When they’re foolish enough to arrogantly post images on Facebook? When they admit their guilt to anyone they think will find it cool? Then, what are administrators and teachers suppose to do with that, when parents step up to provide false alibis? How do coaches look honest kids in the face and bench them, then cheer on kids they know cheated? Is it the rules that need to change or the attitude of a culture that feels we need to bail our kids out of so many things?
This is not something I’ve been spared. I can say that on this topic I can truly put my money where my mouth is. My kids have been held accountable. There has been no bailing for real offenses. I’m guilty of delivering far too many forgotten assignments, lunches, things that they could have lived without… or could have stayed after to make up, because they did not prepare for a given day. I’ve been guilty of cowing on occasion to kids who have behaved badly, to avoid more conflict. Overall however, I’ve stood my ground. They have paid for damage to egged houses, and apologized face to face. They have lost driving privileges for months, and been grounded for things that they should not have done. And I feel lucky that none of the offenses saw us facing the decision regarding whether to bail them out of a much bigger thing. Would I have been so resolved if there had been a serious loss at stake? I’m grateful I wasn’t tested… that far. There was plenty of testing, and plenty of towing the line, by kids and parents in our home. It was not easy. But, I stand by my rant here. I believe that you face the consequences of your own actions, and you grow. Whatever age you are, whatever stage of life.
As I watched this teacher sweep the mess up today, his face was solemn and unhappy looking. He was not laughing. Yet kids were still laughing and being disruptive around him. Other kids had their heads down and their books open, and seemed to get the weight of whatever had just happened. However, I was most struck by that teacher’s expression. I don’t know the circumstances, what led to the loud crash and breaking glass. Maybe he thought that a little levity was in order. The end of the year is near and maybe he figured that some joking and fun was ok? Or maybe he’d asked for quiet and had been ignored, until things got out of hand. I really don’t know. I just know that he was cleaning up the mess, and he didn’t look happy about it. The very fact that he was cleaning up the mess struck me. Why him? I had clearly seen kids up on the stage at the front of the room, when things crashed. I had not seen the teacher initially. So, who made the mess? Somehow I doubt it was that teacher.
And so it irked me. And I spent a portion of my day thinking about the whole thing, and the several things that have jumped up and irked me the same way lately, about how it is and how I think it should be… and the huge gulf between those two things, some days. This is how I see it, but feel free to fire back. I’m curious about where others stand on this topic. This is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There’s many layers to the issues and more than one friend has suggested I not write about it… but again, it’s my dime. It’s my rant.
Please take a moment and support this blog. Share your thoughts in the comment section at the bottom of this post (hit the title to open the link), and join in the conversation. Or post your comments on the Tales from the Motherland FB page. If you appreciate this post, click on the title and then hit the Like at the bottom of the post. If you like Tales From the Motherland, go to the Facebook page and give some love, by hitting like. And if you’re really a fan, consider subscribing. It’s easy and painless. Once you hit the subscribe link to the right of the post, you will get email updates each time I post a new story… No spam, no junk mail… nothing but my deep appreciation.